Trump sued over disclosure of personal debts
By JOSH GERSTEIN 03/18/17 10:48 PM EDT Updated 03/19/17 02:05 PM EDT
A Washington lawyer is suing President Donald Trump for allegedly obscuring the extent of his personal debts on his federal financial disclosure form.
Attorney Jeffrey Lovitky filed the case http://www.politico.com/f/?id=000001...b-eff288000002
in federal court in Washington this week, claiming that Trump's May 2016 disclosure intermingles his personal indebtedness and loans made to businesses or development projects Trump is affiliated with.
While Trump or his businesses are facing at least four lawsuits alleging unfair competition or violations of the Constitution's foreign emoluments clause, Lovitky's suit makes no claims of impropriety ó it simply alleges that the public is being deprived of accurate information about Trump's debts.
All Trump's debts are covered on a single page https://www.documentcloud.org/docume...isclosure.html
of his 104-page disclosure. The listed loans exceed $300 million in total, according to the report. The total amount of the loans is known to be much larger based on other data, but the disclosure form does not require details above $50 million for each loan that exceeds that amount.
"Really, the question is concerning the liabilities held by the LLCs [limited liability companies], and we just need more information to be able to know whether or not those are personal or business liabilities," Lovitky told POLITICO. "If you just look at the statement on its face, all those liabilities are assumed to be personal liabilities, but I just do not think thatís the case. I have information that says otherwise."
Lovitky said that most of the debt information Trump provided on the form was already public record because the loans are typically mortgages that are recorded publicly. However, there is no way from land records or company records to determine who is ultimately liable for loans if the debtor is a limited liability company, the attorney said.
Lovitky said he wrote to White House counsel Don McGahn in January to ask Trump to file a corrected disclosure form but received no reply. Under federal law, Trump's next financial disclosure form is not required to be filed until May 2018. Unlike other major presidential candidates for the past several decades, Trump has declined to make his tax returns public, although portions of a couple of returns have turned up in the press.
White House spokespeople did not respond to a request for comment on the suit. A private Trump attorney, Sheri Dillon, referred a request for comment to the Trump Organization, which declined to comment.
Lovitky primarily litigates health care financing disputes, but he also pursues civil rights cases from time to time. Asked why he is pressing the issue about Trump's financial disclosures, the attorney said: "It's mostly the fact that with this president there are very serious concerns about conflicts of interest in this particular administration, and I think itís important that those concerns be addressed thoroughly."
Several of Trump's largest reported loans are from a division of Deutsche Bank, a large German bank.
Lovitky's suit seeks no damages but asks the court to declare that Trump's disclosure filed last year was illegal and to order him to file one detailing his personal debts. Lovitky said he hopes Trump will simply refile the form rather than fight the suit.
The case was assigned to U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, an appointee of President Bill Clinton.
Josh Gerstein is a senior reporter for POLITICO.